Six Nations

England see off France

2013-02-23 21:08
Manu Tuilagi (AP)
London - Manu Tuilagi scored a fortunate try as England remained on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam with a 23-13 win over France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Owen Farrell kicked 12 points and replacement fly-half Toby Flood landed two late penalties as England inflicted a third straight defeat of the tournament on bottom-of-the-table France - 'Les Bleus' worst start to a Championship since they lost their opening three games in the 1982 Five Nations.

Much-improved France turned round 10-9 in front after Wesley Fofana's superb solo score provided the only try of the first half.

The game was still in the balance, with England leading 12-10, when recalled centre Tuilagi scored a try that might have been disallowed for a ruck offence in the build-up.

It was a sign of England's strength that coach Stuart Lancaster made three changes to a winning side, with the powerful Tuilagi replacing Billy Twelvetrees in midfield and Dylan Hartley taking over from Tom Youngs at hooker.

Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes marked his 24th birthday by filling in for 'flu victim James Haskell at blindside flanker.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre reacted to defeats by Italy and Wales by making seven changes and a positional switch.

Half-backs Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc returned while Fofana was moved to his preferred position of centre, with Vincent Clerc taking his place on the wing.

Up front, hooker Benjamin Kayser, prop Thomas Domingo, flanker Yannick Nyanga and debutant lock Christophe Simon featured in a new-look pack.

Farrell and scrum-half Parra exchanged early penalties to leave the match level at 3-3 in the fourth minute.

The French pack shoved their England counterparts backwards to win a penalty and also denied the hosts continuity of possession at the breakdown.

England came close to a try but had to settle for another Farrell penalty after the onrushing Tuilagi was brilliantly tackled by Parra just a few yards away from the line.

Instead it was France who had a try thanks to a brilliant 30th minute effort from Fofana, released after Clerc expertly gathered a high ball.

Fofana evaded Lawes on the half-way line and sped past wing Chris Ashton before avoiding an attempted tap tackle by England captain Chris Robshaw.

Fofana handed off scrumhalf Ben Youngs and the recovering Ashton's desperate dive couldn't derail a run of more than 60 metres to the line for a great individual score.

Parra converted and France were 10-6 in front.

Farrell's third penalty reduced France's lead to a point and that was their lead at half-time after Parra, a controlling influence in open play, saw a long-range penalty fall short.

Early in the second half England conceded a scrum penalty but Parra's 40m effort drifted to the right of the posts

France were made to pay for those penalty misses either side of half-time when, after a drive off a lineout, Farrell made it four goalkicks from four attempts to edge England 12-10 in front in the 47th minute.

Tuilagi, who on his last England start scored one and created two of their three tries in a shock 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December, extended that lead to 17-10 as the hosts finally crossed France's line.

Nyanga dropped a high ball and in the ensuing ruck the ball was kicked forward by Tom Wood onto England replacement Mako Vunipola.

However, South African referee Craig Joubert - in charge when France lost the 2011 World Cup final to New Zealand - let play continue and the ball squirted out to Tuilagi who powered his way over from 40 metres.

Farrell, surprisingly, missed the conversion and shortly afterwards England's lead was cut to 17-13 when France replacement flyhalf Frederic Michalak landed a penalty.

Outside-half Farrell then appeared to suffer a leg injury in kicking a penalty that fell short of the posts and was replaced by Flood.

England, with Flood also kicking well out of hand, then played most of the last 10 minutes in the French 22 to secure a hard-fought win.

Read more on:    six nations  |  manu tuilagi  |  rugby
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